2014 National Convention

Freedom From Religion

     37th Annual National Convention ­
Weekend of Oct. 24-25, 2014
Millennium Biltmore Hotel
506 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA, 90071-2607

View 2014 National Convention Photos 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s 37th annual national convention will take place Oct. 24-25, 2014, at the legendary Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Avenue in Los Angeles.

The Biltmore, a luxury hotel and favorite of dignitaries, is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and is steps away from the L.A. Live entertainment complex, Staples Center, Ahmanson Theatre, Walt Disney Concert Hall and a few miles from Dodger Stadium.

FFRF is delighted to announce two distinguished scientists will accept its Emperor Has No Clothes Award, a brass statuette reserved for public figures who “tell it like it is” about religion.


From left to right: Donald C. Johanson, Sean Carroll, Erwin Chemerinsky, Marci Hamilton, Anthony Pinn, Barbara Mancini, Patrick Elliott, Christopher Johnson, Linda Stephens, Susan Galloway, Scott Clifton, Jessica Alquist, Dan Barker, Andrew Seidel & Rebecca Markert.

Legal workshop with FFRF Staff Attorneys Andrew Seidel, Patrick Elliott and Rebecca Markert:

REBECCA MARKERT attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her B.A. in political science, international relations and German in 1998. Markert spent one year working as a legislative fellow at the German Parliament in Bonn, Germany, then, in 1999, she became a legislative correspondent and assistant to the chief of staff for U.S. Senator Russ Feingold in Washington, D.C. Markert became FFRF’s first staff attorney in 2008. She’s a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Dane County Bar Association, and is admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin. She and husband Mike Markert have two adorable children, Dexter, 3, and Audrey, 1.

PATRICK ELLIOTT became FFRF’s second staff attorney in July 2010. He hails from St. Paul, Minn., earned a degree in legal studies and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005 and graduated from the Wisconsin Law School in 2009. He’s a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and is admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Western and Eastern Districts of Wisconsin.

ANDREW SEIDEL graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a B.S. in neuroscience and environmental science, and magna cum laude from Tulane University Law School, where he was awarded the Haber J. McCarthy Award for excellence in environmental law. In 2011, Seidel completed his Master of Laws at Denver University Sturm College of Law with a 4.0 GPA. Seidel is a former Grand Canyon tour guide and accomplished nature photographer. He joined the FFRF staff in November 2011 and is married to Liz Cavell, FFRF intake attorney.

Introduction of Nothing Fails Like Prayer Award, Invocation by Amanda Novotny

Freethought Heroine Award, Attorney Marci Hamilton

MARCI HAMILTON is a leading state/church scholar who holds the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. Her undergrad degree is from Vanderbilt, 1979, her M.A.s from Pennsylvania State and her law degree from University of Pennsylvania. Hamilton clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and is the author of “God and the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty,” newly updated this year. She wrote FFRF’s amicus brief before the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby challenge of the contraceptive mandate. Her new blog is found at www.hamilton-griffin.com where she writes on issues such as protection of children. She’s received many honors for her public advocacy and scholarship.

Emperor Has No Clothes Award Acceptance Speech, Donald C. Johanson

DONALD C. JOHANSON is an internationally known paleoanthropologist who discovered the fossil of a female hominid australopithecine known as “Lucy” in the Afar Triangle region of Hadar, Ethiopia, in 1974. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1966 from the University of Chicago, as well as his Master’s and Ph.D. Although he’s served as a professor of anthropology at several distinguished universities, his reputation is based on his archaeological work in the field. Johanson is founding director of the Institute of Human Origins, a human-evolution think tank, at Arizona State University. He has authored and co-authored many books, and will sign copies of “Lucy’s Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins” and “From Lucy to Language.”

Activist Jessica Ahlquist “Communicating Secular Ideas with the Religious”

JESSICA AHLQUIST became a high school student plaintiff in a lawsuit to remove a religious prayer from her school auditorium in Rhode Island. The suit, Ahlquist v. Cranston, was filed with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, and was decided in her favor, despite statewide vilification, including being called an “evil little thing” by a state representative. She has received many honors for her brave stance and court victory, including student activist awards and “Atheist in Foxhole” scholarships from FFRF. Alquist has been interviewed by media around the globe, and speaks frequently on college campuses and before secular groups.

Voices of Reason Concert Concert by Atheist United – LA Choral Group, concluding with Dan Barker tango

Scott Clifton, “Theoretical B.S.” – An Atheist Actor in Hollywood

SCOTT CLIFTON is an Emmy-Award-winning actor who played Dillon Quartermaine on ABC’s “General Hospital” (2003–2007), Schuyler Joplin on ABC’s “One Life to Live” (2009–2010), and currently portrays Liam Cooper on CBS’ “The Bold and the Beautiful” (since 2010). He has been awarded two Daytime Entertainment Emmy awards, and has been nominated seven times. He’s appeared in many motion pictures as well as guest starred on primetime TV hits such as “Judging Amy,” Undressed” and Roswell.” He is a lifelong atheist and host of the freethought Youtube blog, “Theoretical B.S.”

Photographer/author Chris Johnson – “A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy and Meaning in a World without God”

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON is a New York-based photographer and filmmaker who traveled the world photographing atheists for a fascinating 254-page book, “A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God” (2014). He is working on a video version. He received his undergraduate degree in film production (minor in religious studies) from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. His work in art direction and production design can be seen in the films Les Mercredis de Rose and The Pen and the Sword.

Author/professor Anthony Pinn – “Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist”

ANTHONY PINN became the first African-American to hold an endowed chair at Rice University after earning degrees Columbia (MA and MDiv) and Harvard (Ph.D, 1994). He’s Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University and research director at the Institute for Humanist Studies. His many books as an African American humanist include “Why, Lord? Suffering and Evil in Black Theology” (1995), “The End of God-Talk: An African American Humanist Theology” and his new memoir, “Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist.”

Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky – Champion of the First Amendment Presentation – “The Vanishing Wall Separating Church and State”

ERWIN CHEMERINSKY is the founding dean of the University of California-Irvine School of Law and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, with a joint appointment in political science. He previously taught at Duke Law School, and University of Southern California School of Law. He’s the author of eight books including “The Conservative Assault on the Constitution,” and the just published “The Case Against the Supreme Court.” He holds a law degree from Harvard Law School. This year, National Jurist magazine named him the most influential person in legal education in the United States.

Physicist Sean Carroll – Emperor Has No Clothes Award Acceptance Speech

SEAN CARROLL is a theoretical physicist with the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He earned his undergraduate degree from Villanova University and his P.D in Astrophysics from Harvard in 1993. He taught at the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, and did postdoctoral research at MIT. Carroll specializes in dark energy and general relativity. Carroll, an open atheist, occasionally takes part in formal debates or discussions with theists including a Caltech event in 2012, “The Great Debate: Has Science Refuted Religion?” In 2014, Carroll debated Christian apologist William Lane Craig as part of the Greer-Heard Forum in New Orleans on “The Existence of God in Light of Contemporary Cosmology.” Author of several popular science books, Carroll will sign copies of “The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World.”

Susan Galloway & Linda Stephens – Freethinkers of the Year Presentations – “The View from Under the Bus”

SUSAN GALLOWAY is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has worked most of her career in long-term care, specifically with people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. She is a long-time social justice activist and founding collective member of the Flying Squirrel Community Space in Rochester, N.Y. Susan is a member of the editorial board of Rochester Indymedia. She has been an advocate for the separation of church and state since elementary school when in 5th grade she refused to sing in her school’s Christmas concert. Susan was a plaintiff in the Supreme Court lawsuit, Town of Greece v. Galloway.

LINDA STEPHENS is from Greece, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester, has a B.A. in English (Western Michigan University), M.A. in English (SUNY-Brockport), master of library science (SUNY-Geneseo), Ed.D. (Syracuse University) and is now a retired librarian. Stephens was the atheist plaintiff in the Town of Greece v. Galloway Supreme Court decision. She is an event organizer for the Atheist Community of Rochester (ACoR) and the vice president and web administrator for the Rochester chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Stephens was vice chair of Monroe Citizens for Public Education and Religious Liberty before it disbanded and also the past president of the Greater Rochester chapter of the National Organization for Women. Stephens is a long-time FFRF Member and new Lifetime Member.

BARBARA MANCINI is a member of FFRF who lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters. Her father, Joe Yourshaw, was raised Catholic and became a freethinker as a young adult. Barbara was charged with aiding suicide in 2013 for handing her dying father his prescribed morphine. The prosecution nearly cost her her livelihood and put her in the spotlight of a national debate on end-of-life choice. She will be featured in a forthcoming edition of “60 Minutes,” and will discuss her prosecution, how religiosity intruded in this criminal case, and the implications for all of us who will be facing end-of-life issues one day. Unfortunately, video and transcriptions from Mancini’s speech are unavailable. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation